Friday, October 5, 2012

Fatties in the public view

Let me start out by stating the obvious: in American culture, it's not okay to be fat.  It's considered gross, ugly, lazy, unhealthy and a burden on the public aesthetically and financially.  If I'm fat, I'm offending people around me. Fat people- particularly fat women- are second class citizens.  (Although fat men have their own set of social obstacles, especially the notion that fat is feminizing.  Ah, sexism!)

I've been very lucky when it comes to meeting this stigma head on.  Although my family disapproves of fat, my mom, when trying to get me to slim down, encouraged me to enjoy movement and food.  I really appreciate especially that she never mentioned my weight as a child, but only tried to step in when I was nearly an adult and when I gained 100 lb in a year, clearly because of depression.  She also explicitly told me that I was beautiful the way I was and I didn't need to try to meet others' expectations, some really healthy advice!

What's more, in my social circles, there's not a lot of negative body talk.  We celebrate our own and each other's bodies, we make food together and run races together and don't cotton to the self-hatred that seems so common in other groups.  That's a real gift.

I also have had less public comment on my body than some other fatties have had on theirs.  (I hesitate to think about the online discussion on Janie Martinez's gold bikini.  She is amazing!)  I don't know why, but I suspect that it's largely because I'm just lucky- I live in a pretty progressive city.  I wonder if it might also be due to my attitude, although that's dangerous speculation- I do tend to flaunt my fat, wearing bright colors, sleeveless or strapless tops and other clothing reserved for skinny women.  I guess it could go either way- I could be avoiding public comment because the people who would want to comment would give me up as a bad job, or I'm extra lucky because noncompliant fatties might draw more comment, to force them to comply.

The worst I've had is when I was living in downtown Richmond, out for a jog with Andy.  We were crossing Belvidere, and some dude from the backseat of a car yelled, "Run, fat bitch!"  I completely ignored him- it's my first instinct- but it hit me like a sledgehammer, how vicious and violent it was.  No one should be subject to that.  I was especially angry because fatties can't win for losing- if we're out in the world, not working out, we're lazy, and if we are working out, we're disgusting.

To get myself in the gym, I told myself that I may be the fattest, slowest person in there- but maybe I'm making it safe for someone else to come in.  Maybe someone else will see me there and think, "Well, if she feels safe in there, it must be okay for me too."  And to be fair, not one person has ever said a cruel or demeaning thing to me in the gym.  And I've spent a LOT of time in the gym!  (Unless you count the trainers(ALL the trainers) who assumed that my goal was to lose weight, not to build muscle.  But I'll give them a pass.)

Anyway, today I wanted to draw your attention to this post about concern trolling at the Great Fitness Experiment.  Charlotte has really helped reaffirm my faith in fitness, separate from weight loss- she struggled with an eating disorder, and her blog really reflects a commitment to mental health as well as physical.  I really appreciate her discussion about folks who comment on others' bodies with the excuse, "But I'm worried for your health!"  First of all, I think it is never appropriate to discuss someone else's body in public, not mine, not yours, not Hillary Clinton's, not Arnold Schwarzenegger's.  If you know someone well, someone who is losing or gaining weight fast, there might(MIGHT) be a case for pulling them aside and saying, "Is something going on?  Are you okay?"  But to make extrapolations from observations of body size is hateful in this culture.

In other news, the sweet potato fries were mushy but a hit!  Also, I've walked two miles since starting this post.  (With only a few detours to other sites!)

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